France’s Bastille Day parade takes place despite the threat of the Covid-19 variant

European special forces involved in anti-jihadist operations in the African Sahel region will take center stage in France’s Bastille Day celebrations on Wednesday, as a sign of President Emmanuel Macron’s military priorities.

France’s traditional national holiday parade returns to the Champs-Elysées after a one-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

About 80 French and European special forces, drawn from the multinational Takuba force in the Sahel, will lead the procession, a choice intended to send a diplomatic message from Paris.

Macron, who will chair the ceremony, announced a withdrawal of French troops in the Sahel region last month.

He counts on often unwilling European partners to step up their obligations to Takuba.

Paris wants Takuba, which currently has just 600 troops, half of them French, to take over more responsibilities from the 5,100 soldiers in France’s Barkhane operation, who have been fighting alongside local soldiers against Islamist groups in West Africa for eight years.

The parade will be a scaled down version of the usual event, with just 10,000 people in the stands instead of 25,000, while a forecast of heavy rain could disrupt the viaducts and pageantry.

The weather can also dampen fireworks displays across the country, another popular part of Bastille Day, which marks the storming of the Bastille prison, a key event in the French Revolution of 1789.

In addition to the celebrations, the city of Nice in the south of the Riviera is also marking the fifth anniversary of a terror attack in which a man killed 86 people after he drove a truck into a crowd of people watching fireworks.

Prime Minister Jean Castex will visit the city for a ceremony at the site of a memorial to the victims, where 86 doves will be released as a sign of peace.

Later in the evening, city authorities organized a concert and at 10:34 p.m., the time when the truck disaster began, 86 beams of light will illuminate the Mediterranean waterfront to honor the dead.


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